My name is Muhammad Shoaib Tufail and I am a 33 year old Agronomist from Pakistan. Currently, I am completing my PhD at Charles Sturt University, Australia. I have led agri-entrepreneur research project entitled; “Development of village-based forage seed enterprises (VBFSEs) for the profitability and sustainability of small-holder farmers of Pakistan” throughout my PhD study. Before this I worked for Pakistan Dairy Development Company for four years as a regional manager for dairy development in Pakistan. Currently, I am also serving as a consulting forage specialist to the Dairy Science Park in Agriculture University, Peshawar, Pakistan.
There are about nine million smallholder dairy farmers in Pakistan having 3 hectares of land and less than 5 animals to produce food for meeting daily household dietary requirements and income for their livelihoods. However, livestock productivity is very low and restricted by the lack of quality fodder because of the unavailability of quality seed. The demand for seed of forage crops has increased substantially in recent years as dairy farmers have become aware that they will achieve greater profits by increasing the proportion of green feed.
In this project, the smallholder farmers will be involved through farmer’s participatory research approach to produce quality forage and seed at village level with least cost. The farmers will learn the art of varietal selection and seed production with the provision of bees for pollination, which then allow them to establish their own small-scale seed businesses through informal seed production and distribution to other farmers. One of the objectives of this project is to involve women farmers into this seed enterprises business as majority of the enterprises operations are carried out by women.
The main aims of this project are to improve forage and seed production and marketing and thereby boosting livestock productivity. The underlying rationality of this project is to promote additional fodder and seed production within the villages by the community members themselves. In doing this, it will ensure a method for providing and optimising feed resources within their current system as it will be driven by sustainable enterprises. The key outcomes will ensure a steady flow of high quality seed of adapted forage varieties at affordable prices and empower farmers to become local seed producers and suppliers to forage crop producers through the establishment of VBFSEs.
We will work with village farmers (both men and women) involved in the Australian Sector Linkages Program (ASLP) in the two districts of Pakistan, as we did in the pilot study. This will involve farmers in the establishment of varietal selection trials as well as seed plots (simultaneously) which can be used as demonstrations for other farmers. We will establishing clusters of villages within the ASLP project areas to promote the sale and movement of quality produced seed within and between villages.
This agricultural intervention will generate flow-on benefits for enhancing human health and welfare through an improvement in food security. The promotion of entrepreneurial activity by trading in quality forage seed (generating on average 512,340 Rs/ha) will also assist in developing independence of farmers from government hand-outs. This will also help women farmer’s empowerment in developing independent local seed businesses in their localities. In addition to this the proposed project will assist at the local village level in alleviating poverty of poor livestock keepers.
The concept of a VBFSE is not new in the developing world and for food crops. However, modifying the concept for profitable forage seed production in Pakistan requires further research. Berseem clover (Trifolium alexandrinum L.) used as test forage crop as it produces more than 50% of the annual green fodder of the country. Moreover, the government spending more than 300 million rupees (US$ 29m) on Berseem seed import per annum. The project on the development of VBFSEs for the smallholder farmers of Pakistan has involved me in leading a small research program on the optimisation of forage seed production at the farm level by conducting field trials in collaboration with co-operating farmers. In these novel systems farmers produced quality forage (39% increase) and doubled seed production of Berseem clover and market it to the farming community to generate income for their own sustainability. Moreover, these entrepreneurs farmers were become the sole seed suppliers in their respective villages.
The field demonstrations will be conducted at farmer’s fields (five farmers, one in each village) with seed entrepreneurs selected locally. In these demonstrations improved variety seed will be compared with market and the farmer’s seed. The demonstrations will be managed by entrepreneurs (farmers) under the supervisor of researcher. The seed producers will then market the seed to other farmers of the same village as well as in the surrounding villages to establish VBFSEs.
Farmer meetings and field days will be organized to demonstrate the improved variety (ties) using seed production fields to show the performance of different varieties and seed quality with the objective of seed marketing. Finally, an economic analysis will be conducted for both forage seed production and VBFSE. The analysis will show the profitability and sustainability of the seed business in the local community at village level.
Results of previous research showed that the improved variety of Berseem clover produced 13 tonnes of dry matter and 950 kgs of quality seed from one hectare of land. We successfully developed five VBFSEs in the Kasur and Okara districts of Punjab, Pakistan and produced 1920 kgs of total quality Berseem seed which is sufficient to grow 95 hectares of land and it is an ongoing process. These seed entrepreneurs generated a net income of 512,340 rupees (US$ 5120) per hectare (both from fodder and seed), which is 3 times higher income than they earn from any other cash crop grown in the region.
Remarkably, we also found that the introduction of bees in netting system has doubled the seed yield of Berseem clover crop and increased seed production by 119% over open pollination condition, providing an additional net income of 46,405 rupees (US$ 465) per hectare. In conclusion, the varietal selection and provision of bees for pollination through farmer participatory research approach proved to be the realistic approach of bringing positive change at smallholder farmer’s level. The project was funded by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Australia.
By using this research information, we are looking to replicate this idea of VBFSE and will establish another five VBFSEs in other districts (Pakpattan and Sahiwal) of Pakistan. Overall, its 10-11 months project starting from October to September next year with seed produced done in 8 months’ time. However, the income generation started after 2 months with the production of first forage cut which will continue till 3 forage cuts prior to seed production.
The key outcomes will be achieved through training farmers (five farmers) in Berseem clover seed production and the operation of village-based forage seed enterprises. Access to quality seed (with greater germinability) of improved varieties will increase fodder productivity and availability which in turn enhance production of livestock and livestock products directly contributing to the livestock value chain. In addition, Berseem clover is a leguminous crop and can fix atmosphere nitrogen and thus will create a positive impact on soil fertility (measured through soil testing). This in turn decrease cost of production as reduced fertilizer costs and increases crop yields (both Berseem as well as the subsequent crop).
As majority of the field work has been done in the pilot project, the briefed budget plan will be addressing key crop inputs and seed procurements operations. The $5000 money will be spent on:
Foundation and local varieties seed ($670 @ $5/kg)
Honey bee hives ($900 @ $180/hive)
Crop inputs ($1850)
Seed procurements and packing ($1425)
Extension activities ($155)
Blogpost and picture submitted by Muhammad Shoaib Tufail (Pakistan) – mtufail[at]csu.edu.au
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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